Blake’s at Southern Milling in Martin, Tennessee officially opened on Saturday, May 14th. This opening day was a culmination of many years, hundreds upon hundreds of hours of work, and a focused and driven team. Inside what used to be 100 year old plus grain mill now stands a gorgeous central-Texas style barbecue joint with a Tennesse twist. I have no doubt that this will be a bucket-list location and a truly dream lunch AND dinner restaurant for anyone who lives nearby. I’m jealous.
Hours: Open Wednesday and Thursday from 11 am until 9 pm and Friday and Saturday from 11 am to 10 pm.
Below you will find a fantastic collection of photos and videos from Opening Day that I pooled together from the front of house manager Donna Moseley Newsom, Blake Stoker, and John Brotherton as well as some insight directly from Donna on the how that day unfolded, the build-up, her friendship and strong bond with Blake, how two Texas barbecue titans and moreover kind and generous souls ended up assisting, and what the team at Blake’s at Southern Milling is all about.
Donna wrote, “First, I’d like to say that when I joined forces with Blake a year ago, I had no idea how tight-knit the bbq family was. When I say family, I mean people I met at the food trailer that drove from Texas and all over as well as just this community in general.”
“The grand opening was nothing short of EPIC! I didn’t sleep much the night before because I was so excited about what we had all worked hard for so long! Countless hours, planning, stress, and hard work were finally paying off. People camped outside to support this special day and I cried! The overwhelming support from people near and far was something I will never forget.”
“The energy….oh the energy!!! The entire staff was fired up and ready to make the day special for everyone that entered through those doors! I am so thankful that we were able to hire over 50 people in such a rough time. So many businesses are struggling to find employees. We never struggled! God was all over this! It was hectic because we wanted it perfect!! We wanted people to be blown away by what has been 3 years in the making!!!”
John (John Brotherton from Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue and Liberty Barbecue) had told Blake that he was coming but then was under the weather so he said he didn’t know if he could make it. Kerry (Kerry Bexley from Snow’s Barbecue) reached out to me and said he wanted to surprise Blake so we kept in contact for several weeks. Blake had an idea that some Texas people were coming but he wasn’t positive.” Donna captured the surprise in the video at the bottom of this blog. It’s worth checking out 🙂
Here’s a video I put together featuring the sights and sounds from the Grand Opening (with SO many great photos by Donna):
“Kerry and John told me when they were leaving the hotel and I snuck them in the side door and they walked in the kitchen and said, “I heard you needed some help”. That was epic. I will send you that video. Kerry told me that a few months ago he started praying with his team before opening and he would like to lead the prayer before we opened the doors. We now do this in our front-of-house rally every morning before we open. We circle up, hold hands and pray! “
“What does Blake mean to me? He’s one of my best friends, like a brother to me who I admire so much. We became very close in the year I worked at the trailer with him. We laughed, cut up, sang, and vented to each other. He is TOP NOTCH! He’s humble, genuine, and cares about people! He never talks about what he has done. He gives the team all the credit. He cares about his team and he tells us!”
I asked about some hiccups that she mentioned. “As far as the hiccups…the main problem we had was that when the waitlist was at about 2 hours (this was on the 3rd day) by the time we sat people, we were out of food. We have corrected that by giving people a heads up that they are welcome to wait but we can’t guarantee that the bbq fair will be available. Customers appreciated the transparency, some stayed, and some left but came back the next day (earlier) because they wanted to try all the food!!!”
“This entire team is invested! They care because we care. They have a voice! We talked in orientation before opening about how we want to make their job easier and that if we can do things differently or if something would work better…tell us. We are all learning, TOGETHER! We want the people to know that we will do our very best, as a whole team to work through the struggles and make their experience great! Each day has been better and we are so grateful!”
“One employee that stands out to me is Brock Hughes. He and his girlfriend Morgan Abston came in to apply. He applied for the back of the house and she applied for the front. We hired them both and he has been an absolute rockstar in the kitchen. No experience in the industry. He’s from Auburn Alabama and came to school at UTM to play baseball. He has blown me away with his hard work and dedication. He loves his job and it shows. He has worked long hours, been so open to learning, and has The Mill’s best interest at heart! He’s a keeper!!!”
For some additional background on Donna, she was previously FOH manager at The Grind In Martin, and prior to that, she worked as Director of Marketing/Accounting at Hope Outreach, a women’s shelter for homeless and recovering addicts. It closed last year but says a lot about who Donna is as a person. I cannot thank her enough for helping with this article.
Video of John and Kerry surprising Blake: